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Cheers - AE

Sunday, 3 October 2010


This is an unusual post because I'm going to promote a product for a small company that's about to hit the bricks and hopefully play a small part in them, or at least their product, surviving.

Some reading this might have more than one computer, or perhaps a computer and an iPhone. Others might use different browsers depending on their browsing. For some it might be both. And for all of those people sorting out your bookmarks so they're the same on all machines can be a tedious pain in the arse. For a while now I've been using a browser plug-in by the name of X-Marks, formerly Foxmarks. This little gem does a couple of things besides managing bookmarks but for me it spends much of its time working quietly in the background, rarely making any fuss and keeping our bookmarks synchronised across three machines using two types of browser. Now and again a splosh of colour will appear next to its icon in the toolbar to let me know that it's noticed a new or edited bookmark on the local machine or that it's become aware of one on another synched machine and is now quietly creating duplicates while I'm getting on with whatever I'm doing. It even lets me create profiles so that while the sum total of all bookmarks on all machines is kept on the server only desired bookmark folders are synched on each machine. This way Mrs Exile doesn't have to wade through a massive list of folders and bookmarks relating to my ranting since it's confined to the server and this machine, while in turn I don't have folders of bookmarks that interest only Mrs Exile. All our other bookmarks, the majority of them in fact, are regularly synchronised so we can go straight to each other's computer and find, say, the TV guide or the weather exactly where we're used to finding it on the machine we each use most.

Mac and iPhone users will have read this and thought it sounds a lot like Apple's MobileMe, or at least the synching bit of it. And it is, except for three things:
  • Xmarks only does bookmark synching, smart searching and browser built in site info (unless something's been added lately that I haven't noticed).
  • It offers cross browser support, which as far as I know makes it unique.
  • And, unlike Apple's product, it doesn't cost AU$119 a pop. In fact up 'til now it's been free.
And that's the problem. Xmarks have apparently been providing this for free for several years in the hope that a business model would kind of turn up or that someone else would buy it up and adopt it as part of a range of related services, but unfortunately that hasn't happened and the money has almost run out. On January 10th next year the Xmarks service will be discontinued unless it can find a buyer in the next couple of weeks, and naturally that means it must show that it can pay its way. In turn that means finding around 100,000 customers who are willing to pay US$10-20 a year for the service, and finding them fairly sharpish.

Now if you're an Apple MobileMe user and you really only wanted the bookmarks synching you might well be thinking that saving $80-90 or your rough equivalent would be pretty handy and will hopefully be n your way to the bottom of the post where the links are. Firefox, Chrome and Internet Exploder users will be thinking there are already free synching options for them, and that's true. But they don't have cross-browser support, and if you've ever find yourself looking for something you could have sworn you'd bookmarked in Chrome only to realise it was in Firefox this might interest you. It's not perfect because only four browsers - Firefox, Chrome, Safari and IE - are supported, and slightly annoyingly for me it doesn't support the Windows version of Safari, though I've always had the impression that Xmarks hoped to add support for other browsers and so on in the future. If it survives that might still happen. If not... well, an innovative idea won't make it. Fair enough if there genuinely isn't the demand, but a damn shame if a load of people say, 'Bugger, I'd have paid for that' 24 hours after they shut the door for the last time.

So this is my little bit of free advertising for a product for which I and so far about 16,000 or so other users are prepared to pay the comparatively small cost being asked. If it might interest you have a look at Xmarks website here, read about the features here, the current situation here, and, if you think it's worth paying a few bucks for, pledge your support and your folding here. They're not asking for credit card details now, but they are asking for genuine customers who are willing and able to pay ten to twenty US dollars a year for the Xmarks service. And they need to find them by October 15th.

Declaration: I have absolutely no interest in Xmarks other than being a satisfied customer. Basil Fawlty jokes about having me stuffed will be taken as read.
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